Archive for ‘wine y queso’

June 13, 2011

tortiller@s at sunrise.

by la rebelde

One morning during the weekend of my abuelito’s funeral, over 2 years ago, Manito D and I got up super early to go to my Tía Rafaelita’s house.  It was still dark outside when we pulled up in the driveway.  Tía Rafi, of course, was already up and looking beautiful as always.  I can only hope that I will look as wonderful as she does when I turn 92.

Tía had invited us to join her, her novio, Manjo, and my older prima, Eva, for breakfast.  As the oldest of thirteen, my tía had been responsible for much of the cooking at a young age.  She is still the best cook and baker of all of them.  And over the week prior, she visited my abuelita daily, always with a cake, or a pot of pozole, or chile and beans, in hand.

That day, she’d invited us over, so that she could teach us to make tortillas.  Now, we’ve made tortillas many times before.  In fact, Manito D has become quite the tortillero extraodinaire over the years.  Tortilla-making is a favorite activity that he and mi sobrino do together, whenever Sobrino visits, which unfortunately is not very often these days.

We stood in front of the oven watching the sun rise, a soft yellow glow over the sage-brush-covered llanos from the kitchen window.  Tía pulled tin canisters and bags from the pantry and began throwing handfuls of ingredients into a giant bowl.  Her voice still sings in the way that the voices of viejitos in northern New Mexico do.  Spanglish, always.  I could barely keep up, she was moving so quickly.  Before I knew it, she had 4 comales going at once and was expertly flipping tortillas, warm and fluffy and fragrant, with an energy I’d never witnessed in person, but only imagined.

After an amazing breakfast consisting of the usual — papitas, huevos, frijoles y chile, and of course, tortillas — we sat in the living room with our cafecitos.  Manjo had been talking non-stop.  Like my abuelo, he was a WWII vet.  He told me that he had recently been declared “legally blind,” but that many people didn’t believe him.  From his shirt pocket, he pulled out a tattered letter from his doctor and handed it to me.  Sure enough, the doc said he only had less than 8 percent vision.

Not before too long, Manjo got up from his chair and said it was time to go home.  His house was just up the street from my tía’s.  I motioned to Manito D to walk with him home.  But Manjo, insisted, “no, no, it’s not far and I go home by myself all the time.”  We hugged him goodbye and Manito D sat down, as Manjo walked out the front door with his white cane outstretched ahead of his steps.  Before we knew it, he folded up his cane, shoved it in his pocket, and hopped in his truck and was roaring out of the driveway!   We laughed until our sides hurt.

A few months later, my prima Eva passed after a long battle with cancer.  And just a few weeks ago, Manjo got very ill.  He had been in the ICU at the veterans hospital for weeks.  Manito D went to see him and they’d talked for a while.  To my surprise, Manjo always asked about me, even when he wasn’t completely lucid–your sister who lives out in LA.  For some reason the viejitos always ask Manito D about me, even if they don’t always know who Manito D is.  Strange.

Early morning phone call from Manito D today.  Manjo passed away last night.  Our elders have been leaving so often lately.  And I am just so grateful to have shared these small, but joyful, moments with them over the years.  From them I have learned so much.

A Manjo y Prima Eva, I send my love to the heavens and cherish the love and warmth you gave us in this life.

[Okay, you got me — this photo is of sunset, not sunrise.  I am just not enough of an early bird to get a good photo of sunrise…or to remember my camera when I do get up early.  I still think it’s an amazing sun photo, even if it *is* taken through a bug-splattered windshield.]

August 22, 2009

highlight of the day.

by la rebelde
fried pickle slices

fried pickle slices

I’ve got a fire under my ass.  A fire that says I must finish two chapters by the end of the first week of September or else I should not go on the market.  (No, this is not a good year to be on the market, but I’m supposed to be trying to be done, right?)  So I’ve been working steadily.  Steadily, but not quickly.  I may write for several hours each day, getting in a page here or a paragraph there.  Colegas who have finished tell me this is a good pace, but it doesn’t seem fast enough.

Unfortunately, my most “productive” writing periods happen when I have a deadline that requires me to write intensely for 2-3 days — and do little else but watch t.v., eat and sleep.  In these 2-3 days I may be able to write about 10 pages of solid—even good—work.  But in these 2-3 days I get a little squirrelly, from lack of face-to-face human contact.  And afterward my brain is so fried that I have to let it rest for a few days.  And then I go back to the slow-and-steady thing, which isn’t enough.  It’s a vicious cycle, really.  No bueno.

In an effort to get one of those chapters out of the way this weekend, an amiga and I decided to work together this afternoon.  An intense 5-hour writing session in my lovely new air-conditioned apartment with the wonderful windows, and my favorite piñon coffee.  At dinnertime we decided to have a beer and share a burger—a small reward for our hard work.  Well, we shared the burger, but we each had our own beers.  C’mon, now!

And I have to say that the highlight of the day were the fried pickles that I insisted we order to go with our meal.  I have not had fried pickles since I lived in small-midwestern-college-town.  Nearby there was another small-midwestern-college-town that had a charming little bar/restaurant on the edge of the railroad tracks (literally just a couple feet from trains zooming past) that served fried pickles.  There they used the wedge pickles, which were very tasty, but perhaps more juicy than I liked (because of the juiciness, they get really hot, but if you wait for them to cool, then the friedness isn’t as good).  But today, at this new place that opened just blocks away from my place, they used pickle SLICES.   The perfect combination of salty and juicy and greasy goodness.  Almost better than fried potatoes…and you know I love me some fried potatoes!

Ah if only I could be this excited about my chapters…

p.s. I actually have about 20 pages of each chapter drafted, so it’s possible to finish both in time, but probably not without a lot of pain.  And now back to work!

Photo by Sauce Supreme: / CC BY 2.0

April 13, 2008

on making friends.

by la rebelde

A few weeks ago I was catching up with a close amiga who is also fairly new to her current city. We are both still in search of good friends our respective areas. I have a few in the LA area, but we don’t get to see each other as often as we should. And one (maybe two) is moving away soon, which makes me kind of sad. Amiga was saying that when she met certain friends, she knew immediately that they’d be “friends for life.” That’s only happened to me a couple of times. With others, it’s taken some time for us to become comfortable with each other. I suppose it’s that way with relationships of all sorts.
I arrived (fashionably) late to the party. It wasn’t the kind of party I’m used to. The birthday girl (BG) was in her third trimester, so things were pretty low-key. There was no alcohol, no dancing, but there were cupcakes, which I love!

I’ve only hung out with BG a couple times. She’s one of those LA acquaintances who I like, but haven’t gotten to know very well yet. And she and her husband were the only people I knew there. When I arrived, all dozen party-goers were sitting in a circle on the floor around the coffee table, where all the snacks were laid out. They seemed to know each other already and were in the midst of a vibrant conversation about random topics like pop music. I took a chair next to someone who sat alone on the side.

I’m not usually the super-shy type, but I have to admit, I felt awkward and out of place. Like it was not my crowd, not my niche. The feeling was reinforced when folks started trying to remember happy birthday songs in Spanish, which they’d learned in their intro Spanish classes—exactly the reason I hated Spanish class in school. They meant well, but it was a very, shall we say, multicultural moment. (I should add that there was only one other Latino person there besides me. Everyone else was white or Asian Am.)

After a good while, the hostess very generously tried to bring me into the conversation. She introduced everyone in the room—turns out a lot of them didn’t actually know each other like I thought. Most of them were straight couples—and they introduced themselves along with their couple-ness. “I go with so-and-so.” They laughed at themselves for making those comments—even compared themselves to Ken and Barbie. “Ken goes with Barbie.” Yea, I thought to myself, definitely not my crowd. But maybe they were just reflecting each other’s awkwardness. Quien sabe.

Things got better once we started decorating cupcakes and folks started to move around a lot. I had a couple of really great conversations. And I was reminded that friendships sometimes have to be made, that they’re not always instantaneous. I don’t know if I’ll become good friends with anyone I met there. But I hope to see BG again soon. And maybe a couple of the others too. (As long as there’s no Ken-and-Barbie talk…or Spanish class song-singing. I’m just saying.)

*I did not make or decorate this cupcake. It was bakery-bought by the hosts.

March 23, 2008

good friday.

by la rebelde

Yesterday. Good Friday. A perfect spring day. Better in northern Nuevo Mexico than anywhere else. Manito and I drove up to Taos to pick up my grandparents so we’d all be in Burque when Sobrino arrived.

The going was slow because so many people were making the annual “pilgrimage” to the Santuario de Chimayó. Families, couples, individuals, all walking along the side of the highway to pay their respects to the dark brown Cristo and the Santo Niño. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to do the holy week walk. Maybe one of these years, I will. You know, once I get past my nine years of Catholic School trauma and remember to plan ahead for Lent and stuff.

The going was also slow because it was a nice Friday afternoon. And nice Friday afternoons are perfect for cruising in Española. The Santuario and lowriders seem to go together–like in this photo from the Smithsonian exhibit. It seemed like everyone who had a hot lowrider was out—and everyone who didn’t too. It took at least 30 minutes to get from one end of town to the other because even if you didn’t mean to cruise, there’s only one main drag through town so everyone has to cruise. Espa has been called the “lowrider capital of the world.”* (For all you non-believers, see here and here.) My favorite this trip was a glittery light blue ’63 Impala convertible with shiny, shiny rims. I’m no car whiz, but it was amazing!

We weren’t sure if my grandparents heard our car as we crossed over Rio Lucero at the entrance to their driveway. My grampa built that bridge with steel beams and railroad ties, just like all the rio crossings in their barrio. It makes a lot of noise when you drive across. But my grandparents are hard of hearing these days.

I hugged them hello. My grampa even tried to stand to greet me, with his big smile that spreads his wisdom lines across his face. His eyes were twinkling, the way they did when I was a child. He used to swoop me up in his arms and walk over to the entryway so I could ring the bells he liked to hang there. Recently, my Spanish instructor mentioned that she thinks I look a lot like him because our eyes sparkle in the same way when we smile. No one ever said I look like him before. When I told my gramma what my instructor had said, she replied that she agreed and I should be happy because my grampa was “very good looking when he was young—very good looking. You better believe it!” Yea—Gramma’s still reveling after all these years because she got a catch. He did too, she just doesn’t realize it.

We drove back to Burque that evening to meet my papa for torta de huevo (aka the “Lenten special” that I always thought was called “tart” de huevo). Not sandwiches, more like panqueques de huevo…with red chile of course. As I exited at Paseo del Norte going toward the mesa, the sun shone so brightly I was practically blinded. I struggled to shade my eyes, while driving directly into it during Friday evening traffic. Finally at a stop light, I looked over at my grampa who sat pensively in the passenger seat, occasionally trying to adjust the shade on the car ceiling, despite his bad arm (WWII injury). “How are you Grampa? Is the sun bothering you a lot?” “No,” he said. “I just can’t keep the sun out of your eyes.”

The truth is, he has always been and will forever be keeping the sun out my eyes.

Lowrider photo credit: Smithsononian Institution, Photo by Jeff Tinsley, Negative #: 95-3340

* I made a mistake in my original post, which stated that “Espa is the birthplace of the lowrider” and the links did not actually say this. It seems that the birthplace of the lowrider is up for debate. See here. I need to do more research, but the historia I grew up with credits Española for the lowrider. That’s my historia and I’m sticking to it! Muchas gracias to the anonymous commenter who pointed out my mistake.

August 25, 2007


by la rebelde

This weekend I went to the annual Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo with an old college friend. I’d heard so much about it that I just couldn’t miss it. And once I found out another friend of mine was in the promotional tofu-eating contest that aired on the evening news, I just had to go. When we got there, they stamped our hands with the word tofu! (too bad it doesn’t show up well in the photo or I would’ve posted it here. Tofu Festival is also on myspace.)

Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and food tickets, we strolled among the booths, trying all kinds of different dishes. Mis amigas liked the tofu tostadas the best—but I just thought it was pico de gallo with chopped tofu mixed in. It was good, but I wasn’t as impressed as they were. It’s amazing how much better fresh tofu is than that packaged kind. I stuffed myself with fried tofu, dipped in peanut sauce with sriracha. Yum! I could have gone for some tofutti too, but the booths started closing before I could think of it. Luckily I got to the blacklava booth before they shut down for the weekend and I bought this fabulous t-shirt.

When I saw it on the wall, I couldn’t resist! Asiaphiles irk me so! And Blacklava is awesome. I think my next purchase will be the brown sweatshirt with JUSTICE on it. But I’ll have to wait for my fellowship check to come in.

That evening I spoke with my mom on the phone. She said she can’t help but feel a little envious that I live in a place where all these foods are so accessible. “You should enjoy it while you can.” She said. “When you leave, you’ll miss it more than if you never had it.” Huh, I hadn’t been thinking about the fact that I probably won’t live in LA forever. I love how my mom likes to state the obvious things that you don’t want to think about in the moment.

But she is right, there aren’t any tofu festivals in small-midwestern-college-town or any of those other midwestern/appalachian places where I’ve lived. When I lived in NYC, my supervisor, who’s also Chinese Am, had been in California visiting family and returned to our office with tales of the amazing selection at Ranch 99 market. It became legendary amongst the APIAs in our office, since none of us had ever experienced this kind of Asian superstore. We wanted to see this “isle of nothing but ramenfor ourselves.

But when I first moved to LA, I had trouble getting acclimated to the suburban Chinatown thing, of which markets like Ranch 99 are exemplary. I knew how to shop in Chinatown NY, but this whole strip-mall-grocery-store thing, where you have to drive, park and go inside was a different story. If you decide they don’t quite have what you want, you can’t just walk to the next store and see what they have. You have to get in the car and brave the traffic again. What a drag! And you can’t buy less than like 5 pounds of baby bokchoy or 10 bulbs of garlic or a giant sack of ginger root at once. Not good for the single person. It all took some getting used to. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’m used to it yet.

But I am inspired to make a run to the Ranch 99 for some fresh tofu this weekend. Hmmm. It’s good to live in LA.

July 19, 2007

fruity goodness.

by la rebelde

When I was a little girl, my mom used to make teeny kabobs–grapes, pineapples, sandía, kiwi, cheese and turkey on toothpicks. Well, not all on one toothpick–they don’t all fit on there. Now that I think about it, toothpick kabobs were almost exclusively an outdoor lunch dish. My mom would bring them to the park, to the zoo (because we would never ever buy the expensive food at the zoo), or just out on the front porch. She even brought them to the movie theater a couple times, but that was not outdoors, and movie-going was a rare outing, so it didn’t stick.

As we grew older, my mom would cut up fruit and leave it on a tray in the kitchen for us to munch on after school. Sometimes she would put out veggies–string beans with jalapeño cheese sauce to dip in (some low-fat kind she figured out how to make), or cucumbers marinated in a vinegar mixture. I used to eat so much while we made dinner and chatted about the day.

Did I mention my mom’s a dietitian? Yea. Her logic was that if we snacked on fruits and veggies right before dinner, we’d eat less at dinner. “You’ll fill up on water,” she used to say. There were a lot of nutritious foods in our lives. If only I had the discipline to eat that healthily all the time now! But what I remember most is the feeling of sitting at the kitchen table with her, chopping cabbage, tofu, garlic, and mushrooms for dinner, chomping on these “healthy snacks” and talking non-stop. I have a tendency to do that, to talk too much. I think I must get that from her.

Yesterday I went to Costco and bought this enormous fruit salad. It didn’t occur to me that I’d have to eat the entire 4 pounds of it all by myself, since I live alone. I guess I was blinded by the colors in the bowl. It wasn’t until I sat down to eat it (well, a teeny tiny portion of it in the photo above), that I realized there were two important things missing–pineapples and my mama.

June 4, 2007

seven random-ass things about me.

by la rebelde

Okay, so I tagged a couple of amig@s in recent weeks. And I’ve been tagged back by Olga over at bloga yo la tejo with this meme. I did a similar meme a few weeks ago. And it’s hard because I tend to be an open book about a lot of things…um, I talk too much about myself. Anyway, here’s my attempt to dig up some stuff!

  1. Mi manito used to call me “Sava” when he was a toddler because he couldn’t pronounce my name all the way. Mi papá is the only one who still calls me that—and most of the time he just calls me “Sav” for short. (In northern nuevo méxico, words that other mexicanos would spell with b’s are often spelled with v’s, so I don’t know how you would even spell this right. Although my actual name has a b not a v, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was a v instead?)
  2. My favorite television pastime is watching sitcoms, even if they’re bad. I just think they can be so damn funny! My favorite as of late, is Girlfriends.
  3. In 2001, when I decided to move to Tejas for the second time to rekindle my relationship with academia, which I’d left in an angry frenzy a year before (following my first year of grad school), my grandparents bought me a cute little silver 13” t.v. I dragged that t.v. set with me to small-midwestern-college-town where it fit perfectly in my series of teeny apartments. A few weeks ago when he came to visit with my other manito and mis prim@s, mi manito surprised me by bringing me the 24” (i think) flat-screen t.v. from his guest room. Now my amig@s can stop teasing me about my teeny t.v. And maybe they’ll be more inclined to watch t.v. at my place when they come to l.a. Hopefully I won’t become a couch potato!
  4. My study area is my favorite room in my apartment. Unfortunately it’s also the room I avoid the most.
  5. I eat the same things over and over—variations on the turkey sandwich (finally with green chile now! also brought to yours truly by my amazing lil bro), oatmeal with raisins, sautéed chicken & asparagus or baby bok choi with rice, egg & cheese bagel sandwiches and beans & red chile. I do this because I’m lazy (hate grocery lists and hate doing dishes) and I’m single (don’t know how to cook for less than 5 people, which means if I cook, I’ll be eating the same thing for a week). But I am quite bored with my dietary patterns.
  6. For the last few months, I’ve been considering getting a texture wave because I’m convinced it will make my hair less flat and take less time in the morning. But I haven’t had a perm since circa…the ‘90s and I’m afraid of major hair damage and/or looking like an electrocuted poodle. I’m also worried that it will be a physical manifestation of some kind of self-hatred/internalized sexism that I haven’t come to terms with yet.
  7. Jennifer gave me the idea for this one a couple months ago. I could write a really long post about it, but I’ll try to be brief here: At my high school in West Virginia (my family moved there from Burque back in 1991 and I lived there for the longest 4 years of my life), the mascot was the “Mohigan” which was a play on the name of the yearbook, but more importantly, a racist caricature of native peoples and a legacy of the ongoing violence of colonization. The marching band there was like a lesser version of high school football in Texas (if you’ve seen Friday Night Lights, you know what I mean. Great show, btw!) The majorettes in the marching band were ranked like cheerleaders: majorettes were like varsity, mohiganettes were like j.v. Both wore knee-high white boots with corduroy pocahontas-like mini-dresses, in red or blue with white fringe or in white with red or blue fringe. Each wore beaded headbands that held up the single feathers that stood vertically on the backs of their heads. And the head majorette even wore a floor-length feather-head-piece in red, white and blue. They twirled batons, did leg kicks, and looked cute in front of the band during parades and on the football field. That’s just one example of the institutionalized racism I experienced during my high school years. (Don’t get me started on “slave day”!) Anyway, here’s the random thing for this meme: When I was a sophomore, I tried out to be a mohiganette. I don’t know why I didn’t make the line—maybe it’s because I was not “popular,” not rich, too short, too chubby, or too brown—the teenage version of myself thought it was all of the above, especially the last. I didn’t doubt the athletic/dancing abilities of those girls—preparation for tryouts was an intense workout. And I didn’t envy the adolescent body-image issues that must have been heightened with having such a public and sexualized position in the school community, not to mention the rumors that there was a weight limit to make the line. By senior year, I was glad I didn’t make it and more happy to wear the woolen uniform with coat tails and white cottony q-tip hat. I liked the girls in the piccolo line. And I liked to put my piccolo in my pocket during field rehearsal. Now, I’m glad I didn’t make because I never put on one of those fucked up costumes. Unfortunately though, I still remember how to do the dances to the fight songs. Don’t even ask… I will not demonstrate…unless the moon is just right and you’ve bought me several tequila gimlets!

Phew! Why can’t I list seven random-ass things about myself without telling whole narratives? Maybe it’s a professional hazard. Anyhow, I tag kisha kisha bo-bisha (bad-ass chica with a plan) and angie la dissident brown chick (cuz I know she’s needing some procrastination time away from those prelim exam lists, while she sips her tea/coffee in our beloved small-midwestern-college-town).

May 6, 2007

porque now you live in l.a.

by la rebelde

At 8:30 this morning I was jolted awake by the ear-piercing ring of my cell phone. My dad was calling to check on my flat-tire situation, which transpired yesterday. “You need to have all four of your tires replaced,” he said definitively. “Porque now you live in LA.” I love how my dad thinks in such dramatic terms about my living in LA now. It’s like all precautions one would take in Burque are to be taken to the extreme in Los Angeles. After all, my dad should know—he lived here in 1969, a point he likes to remind me of quite often.

Yesterday I had morning coffee and a bagel with my good friend, Miss J, at a cute little coffee shop I recently learned of. When I parked the car, she pointed out that one of my tires needed some air. After she left, I headed to the gas station, where I found another tire was even lower than the one my friend pointed out. I filled them all before embarking on the hour-long drive to the library, where I would spend the afternoon listening to testimonios–oral history interviews conducted in the 1970s. Old tapes on old tape players. Let’s just say I wasn’t looking forward to it. (More on los archivos some other day. I’m admittedly avoiding writing about them because I’m in denial about lots of things dissertation-related.)

When I got back to my car, the tire—not the one J pointed out, the other one—was completely flat. Visions of shredded rubber, black streaks on grey pavement, and cars spinning out of control on the freeway flashed through my mind. I had to wait almost 2 hours for the tow guy to drive through heavy Friday afternoon traffic so he could come put the spare on for me. I watched him work. It seemed so simple, I was kicking myself! Why didn’t I pay more attention when my dad showed me how to do this a few years ago? Wait, do I even have the upper-body strength to turn the wrench? And why did I decide to drive 25 miles from my apartment on a questionable tire? Oh yeah…the lure of the pinche dissertation. Anyway, I took the streets to get home because I was afraid of driving on the freeway with a shady tire that makes my car look like it has a skeleton leg. Thank goodness my girl warned me about the tires, otherwise I could have been stranded on the 10!

So my dad called to get the car update. It’s what he does to show that he loves me. He talks about my car and helps me with the costs of repair work until I get a “real” job. He asks about school, expecting a short, yes-or-no type of answer. It’s his way of being a part of my adult life. Which leads me back to why I was on the west side in the first place and why I’m even in LA—to write my dissertation.

So at 8:30 PST this morning–which I think is early on a Saturday–my dad was just sitting down to breakfast at IHOP in burque with mi manito and my grandparents. As I answered the phone “Hi Papá,” I heard his voice some 900 miles away, “Scrambled. Sausage links. And whole grain pancakes, if you don’t mind.” “What?” I croaked through my sleep. “Heeeey! How’s your car?!” he said all jolly and awake-like. He must have been in a really good mood. I love when my dad is jolly. After talking about the car for a while, he did our familia ritual, passing the cell phone around the table so I could say hello to the folks.

“Hi grandma. How are you?” I said. “Comiendo, as usual. I’m having the Belgian waffle. Come join us!” she said…as usual. Then my grandpa took the phone. “I hear you have a flat tire!” he said. “Yes,” I smiled. “Which side is it flat on?” he asked. I was confused. “What do you mean?” “Well, it’s only flat on the bottom side, right?” he laughed. My grandparents are so cute.

I wish I could join them for breakfast. I’m due for a trip home soon, for reals. I really miss mi familia today…porque now I live in LA.

April 11, 2007

flashes of time.

by la rebelde

So I’ve been traveling over the last couple of weeks. First, to the puritanical/working-class Irish Boston to visit my homegirls, who were my roommates during my first year of college when we moved into the Latina first-year quad at our bad-ass anti-racist, anti-colonialist dorm. And then to Nueva York to attend an academic conference, where I presented a paper. It’s been a hectic time, but really great. Here are some of the highlights.

Went for a run with mi tocaya, who was doing a “short run” that day in accordance with her marathon-training schedule. She is mad hardcore, y’all. And she pushed me to run much further (and uphill) than I ever have on solid ground. The air was brisk. I had allergies. My nose was running. But running alongside the quaint New England homes, with actual stone wall fencing dating back at least 2 centuries, kept me going. (Maybe it was my anger at the role fences played in settler-colonialism in New England, when the British stole the land from native people. It reminded me of Cronon’s Changes in the Land. I know, I’m a big academic nerd.) Nah… actually, mi tocaya kept running, so if I slowed down too much or stopped, I’d probably get lost, so I kept on. At the end of our route, I apparently jogged up the hill to her house with a smile on my face. As I said, it was her, not me—she was a great cheer-leader for this amateur!

Shot some pool, drank good beer, and ate sweet potato fries (one of the finer things in life) with chipotle sauce at Jillian’s. Miss Boricua Mechanic shot me under the table. And she talked shitz the whole time. She’s good, but I let her win. ;)

I’ve known homegirls’ beagles, Jazz and Toby, since they were puppies. And I didn’t used to like them. Now I do. Maybe it’s because they’re adult dogs now—or maybe it’s because I’m an adult human now. But I like to make commentary for the dogs as they play. I think we can be friends—so long as they aren’t shedding too much.

Our panel was scheduled for 8:30am on the first day of the conference. We’d gone out for yummy drinks and Korean food the night before. I forgot to buy water on the way back to the upper-east-side apartment I was renting (not a hotel room). And I was too lazy to go to the Korean mercadito around the corner to get some. So when I woke up, I was parched. At the conference, I could not drink enough water. And I didn’t want to drink too much before our panel because I was afraid I’d have to pee. And since I went last, my mouth felt like paper as I was reading. It was like my tongue was swollen and I couldn’t say “tortillería” without stuttering. Ugh. Our commentator was awesome though. She made us sound super smart. And the professor’s baby who was sitting in the front row stopped crying by the time it was my turn. All in all, I can’t complain.

Met with the guy who wrote the dissertation on a similar topic as mine. He was really nice and incredibly helpful. I’m so glad we got to talk in person. My anxiety about the idea of original work is tempered some now (but only a little bit).

Ran into a woman who was an administrator at my undergrad school. Last time I saw her, at ASA, she introduced me to a friend as “one of the agitators.” I’m not sure she meant it as a compliment, but I’m going to take it as one. Guess my reputation from my college years will follow me forever. It was still weird when she spotted me in the elevator though. Enclosed space. Administrator-turned-professor asking about my whereabouts in front of other random academics in my field. Ick.

Boricua Mechanic’s madre made tasty pasteles for dinner when I stayed with her in Spanish Harlem. I admit to being weary of pasteles, since the last time I had them I was in college and a puertorriqueña administrator made them. They were bad. And they kept saying they were like tamales. I had been so disappointed. But Boricua Mech’s mom is a great cook. I will no longer be afraid of the pasteles. But I did have to ask, if these are pasteles, what do you call cake? Apparently it’s bizcocho. Hey, I’m learning here.

Missed my flight to LA because we missed the exit and had to take a detour through construction-ridden downtown Boston. But I got a better flight and got to Los Angeles much earlier than I would have had we not accidently strayed from our path. I must be having a lucky streak!

As the plane descended over the nocturnal lights of LA, I realized that I had no idea how sprawling the city really is. As far as the eye could see, just lights. In one spot, it looked like balls of fire were floating up and exploding close to the buildings. It was shocking. Staring hard to see what was going on, I realized they were fireworks. They seemed so close to the ground from my vantage point on the plane. I watched them until the smoke from the explosions clouded my view.

Home at last.

March 1, 2007

lunar new year on la placita.

by la rebelde

It is now the year of the pig (or I guess, the boar) and good things are supposed to come this year. I have never done the requisite cleaning of my living spaces in preparation for the new year. Usually, I give a quick vacuum to the main spaces without moving the furniture around to take care of hidden dust balls, vacuuming just like any other weekend. I normally don’t use the special vacuum cleaner attachment that gets in the nooks and crannies, the corners where fuzz collects in cheap, worn apartment carpet. But in years past, I have done a lot of thinking about metaphorical cleaning and organizing of my life, who I am, who I want to be, and how to become that incarnation of myself. This year is no different, but I am, I think, a slightly different person. (More on that in later posts.)

Thinking about the new year reminds me of family members, especiall
y on my Chinese American side, who I never got to know, whose stories I have pulled together from tidbits of information gathered here and there in conversations with my mother. My mom’s silence about her history is glaring to me as a historian, but her uneasy relationship with history is what makes her who she is, what makes her the strong woman she is. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that all of our relationships with histories are uneasy, whether or not you tell the stories over and over again.

Lunar New Year lanturns hung at the placita by Chinese Amerian Museum.

I missed the neighborhood celebrations of lunar new year this year because I was driving northward with M through California farmlands past unending cherry trees with fluffy pink blossoms and rows of itsy-bitsy green lettuce plants, all the while singing along with my new groovin’ playlist. I spent that time shuffling through dusty paper collections of the Immigration and Housing Records of California, straining to read the pencil-written field notes that sociologist Paul Taylor wrote in the 1920s-30s, trying to pull together the bits and pieces of stories of people who lived at the turn-of-the-20th century. If only I could travel through time and be a fly on the wall
! But time was not only spent with los archivos–there were reunions with good friends from college and grad school, friends who I only get to see rarely, who live in the bay, so close to LA but so very far away.

Upon return from our archival adventure (it’s always better to think of it as an adventure otherwise it’s just plain boring), I went with M to the plaza in downtown LA—to the area that was, a century ago, the home of the Chinese and Mexican people whose stories I am learning about. The plaza was alive with celebration like I had not seen before. On other visits, I have seen amazing (or semi-amazing) singers—mostly men—standing in the gazebo, singing mariachis at the top of their lungs. But this weekend, an indigenous Mexican dance group performed for a large gathering underneath colorful lanterns hung in celebration of the year of the pig. I pushed through the crowd to get a good view, ducking under elbows and around big dudes who could clearly see over me. This kind of thing only happened to me once before—when I was about 8 years old and my mom took us to the Moon Festival in downtown Alburquerque. We had red bean buns and watched puppet shows with rabbits in them.

When we got back to my apartment after an afternoon at the plaza, I attem
pted to make the bean thread dish that my makes every time I visit her at her house. And for the first time, since circa 1996, it came out almost as good as hers. That’s a lucky thing because the leftovers will surely last for several days. Good thing my friends can stomach my cooking!

So it does look like the pig is going to usher in the goodness, even if I didn’t dust between the books on the shelves and under cositas on my altar. Happy lunar new year y’all!